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Judicial Hellholes 2005

Read the full Judicial Hellholes 2005 Report.

2005 Judicial Hellholes

  1. Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas
  2. Cook County, Illinois
  3. West Virginia
  4. Madison County, Illinois
  5. St. Clair County, Illinois
  6. South Florida.

Dishonorable Mention:

  • Wisconsin Supreme Court

Watch List:

  • California
  • Eastern Kentucky
  • Eastern Alabama
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • New Mexico
  • Delaware
  • Oklahoma
  • Orleans Parish, Louisiana
  • Washington, D.C.

Summary of Key Findings

  • Judicial Hellholes are places that have a disproportionately harmful impact on civil litigation. Litigation tourists, guided by their personal injury lawyers seek out these places because they know they will produce a positive outcome – an excessive verdict or settlement, a favorable precedent, or both.

  • The report identifies six Judicial Hellholes and one “Dishonorable Mention.” They are: Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast, Texas; Cook County, Illinois; West Virginia; Madison County, Illinois; St. Clair County, Illinois; and South Florida. This year’s only Dishonorable Mention goes to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

  • New this year is the “Watch List” – a list of areas that have been cited in previous Judicial Hellhole reports or are new areas that are being closely monitored due to negative developments in the litigation environment. The Watch List includes: California; Eastern Kentucky; Eastern Alabama; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New Mexico; Delaware; Oklahoma; Orleans Parish, Louisiana; and Washington, D.C.

  • The Points of Light section highlights areas where judges, legislators, the electorate, and the media intervened to stem abusive judicial practices. Some of the Points of Light include: the enactment of the Class Action Fairness Act; the Illinois Supreme Court ruling that a state trial judge should not have granted nationwide class action treatment in Avery v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 5-99-0830; and four different states addressing asbestos and silica litigation reform.

  • It is possible to extinguish the fires in Judicial Hellholes. South Carolina’s Hampton County has been “delisted” due to reforms enacted in that state. Past reports revealed blatant abuse of the state’s former lax venue law. State supreme and other high courts also are cracking down on abuses in other Judicial Hellholes, including South Florida and various jurisdictions in Texas and Illinois.

  • A number of factors contribute to a Judicial Hellhole designation, including the prevalence of forum shopping, the willingness of courts to expand liability through novel legal theories, discovery abuse, improper certification of class actions, the proliferation of junk science, strong alliances between plaintiffs’ lawyers, judges and attorneys general, and the uneven application of evidentiary rules. Abusing consumer protection acts also have led to a flood of litigation in certain jurisdictions.

  • Judicial Hellholes can destabilize entire regions. Illinois’s litigious environment is making doctors and businesses shy away from entering the state, resulting in both a medical liability crisis and a suppressed economy. Similarly, Florida has seen skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums and decreasing medical school enrollment due to the medical liability environment.

  • Voters want change. In recent years, voters have ousted judges who have had a hand in bringing out-of-control litigation to their states. Illinois voters rejected a Madison County judge for a position on the state Supreme Court, while Mississippians elected state Supreme Court justices who campaigned against out-of-control litigation. West Virginians ousted incumbent Justice Warren McGraw who was widely considered to be part of the lawsuit abuse problem in the state.